I am NOT a Fish Out of Water!

Most of my life I have felt like a fish out of water. I don’t really fit in where most other women do. I don’t really fit in with the men either. I have tried to figure out why I don’t have the stereotypical “female tribe” I see around me. Why am I not invited to do some of the things those female types do? Never mind that I don’t enjoy most of what they are doing and don’t really want to go. I still want to be invited. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of friends and some really good close friends. I’m not living life alone. But I don’t live it like most other women. I never have. I have always been able to make friends with boys easier than with girls. I feel more comfortable hanging out with guys and there is nothing sexual about it. But that can seem awkward for others, so I keep hanging out with the guys to a minimum. I have beat myself up for not fitting in, wondering what is wrong with me. Wondering am I not good enough? Am I not fun enough? Am I not nice enough? I could go on and on.

Over the years I have tried repeatedly to diagnose what I perceived was a problem with me. As a coach, I help people through issues such as this quite frequently. Why couldn’t I figure it out for myself? Turns out it is easier to help others than it is to help yourself. Helping yourself to truly become self-aware and to then make changes is hard. Really hard. Thankfully there are some truly self-aware and gifted people in the world that give nuggets of their wisdom and experiences to help inspire us. I love to listen to podcasts and run. This is my time to be alone and consume the information that fills my fuel tank.

On a run this week I was gifted with a beautiful story that has led to one of the most powerful epiphanies of my life! Brene Brown was interviewing Glennon Doyle about her new book, Untamed.  I have now listened to this podcast 3 times and I am reading the book. Thank goodness for the forced slowdown and quarantine because I can indulge myself over and over in this fabulous gift of information.  As I listened to Glennon talk about herself and life, I felt like it was me talking. It was within a different context, but the feelings were the same. Glennon tells the story of a cheetah in a zoo she was visiting with her children. The cheetah had been trained alongside a Labrador to help tame her. I don’t want to steal Glennon’s thunder, go get the book, but the gist of the story is this:

The cheetah was born into captivity and trained to act like a dog. It is the only way of life that she has ever known. But deep inside, the cheetah feels that life should be more than this and that she is not meant to act the way she was trained. When she is alone in her zoo exhibit, she is different and wild again. She dreams of wide-open savannahs and freedom, of a life more beautiful than the one she has even if the one she has is good enough. But how can she dream of this if she has never seen or experienced it? Why can’t she just be grateful for how good her current life is? It is because she is a cheetah!  

In Untamed, Glennon uses the cheetah story as a metaphor for the way women are tamed or trained to act. We are taught to “be good”, “speak correctly”, “know our place”, “be perfect wives/mothers/friends”, “not complain (i.e. bitch)”, “be thin”, “be beautiful”, “be sexy, but only at the right time”, and most of all “be grateful”.  If we do not live up to the expectations society has placed on us, we feel like we are not enough. If we are not grateful in our “good enough” lives, we feel guilty.  But what if deep inside we feel like the cheetah? Like life is supposed to be different and more beautiful than this?

 I have let my inner Glitch tell me a ton of lies over the years and I have believed them. Lies like, I don’t fit in because I am not enough; I am not pretty enough; I am not smart enough to contribute, I am not polished enough to be effective. The cumulative effect of believing these lies is that I distance myself from work and personal obligations and goals to avoid failing at them. After all, I’m not enough.  I have told myself I am not valuable enough to contribute and kept quiet even though my gut told me I was right. I have told myself I must have some type of defect because I don’t act or want to act like most women. I perceived that this was true because when I do act on my instinct, the reactions I would receive were mixed reviews. I have questioned all of this over and over and over and over. Ultimately, I asked myself if I was crazy.

 As I ran listening to the podcast with Brene and Glennon and I heard the cheetah story and the questions being posed, I stopped running dead in my tracks. I immediately began to cry. Not sad tears but tears of relief and joy! For the first time in my life I KNEW what I had been trying to figure out about myself. Inside I am like the cheetah! I want a life more beautiful and different than what I think society has said I am supposed to have. I AM NOT CRAZY! And most importantly, I AM ENOUGH!

 Turns out I am not a fish out of water!! I have been in the wrong water. It is time to jump out of the small, tame pond and to jump into the ocean where I belong! It’s no wonder I have a fascination with the ocean and mermaids. It is where I know deep down that I belong!!

This is a scary and thrilling revelation for me. It is very freeing as well. I can be exactly who I feel inside I should be. I know I am a SMART, BEAUTIFUL woman with a lot of wisdom to contribute to the world. My optimism is contagious. I value authenticity and humility. Ambitious, altruistic people are my people.  I am intimidating to some and my bluntness can be cutting. But I LOVE BIG and care more about humanity than myself. I deserve BIG LOVE in return and won’t ever settle for less; even if what I have is good enough. I am grateful for what I have but am more grateful for what will be. I won’t temper my feelings, actions or words anymore because society says that is not how a woman should behave. I have a lot to give to the world that I have been holding back because I have feared what others might think. I did not trust myself enough that I could stand in my true self and be successful.

 Look out! I’m not a cheetah, but I am Gina. It’s time to really let her shine!

We Empower Women!

Most of my professional life has been in male dominated industries and I’ve never thought, “I can’t do that because I am a woman.”

I owe my parents a great deal of credit. Growing up it never occurred to me that women were treated differently in the workforce. I have known always that I have every right to choose my life and career path. I must thank my parents profusely for always supporting me, never trying to hold me back, to over-protect me, or judge me as I made career choices. They were my first empowerment coaches and they made all the difference for me. From construction sales, to entrepreneurship in construction and cycling, to consulting/investing, and now teaching entrepreneurship in a large university, I have been surrounded by mostly men at work. I have had many wonderful experiences and have had fantastic co-workers/bosses, but I have also seen the ugly side of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. This week I realized that every professional woman I have ever met has a story about gender discrimination and/or sexual harassment. The strength my parents instilled in me in my formative years helped me to be resilient and move past the unpleasant times and people to keep striving for my goals. Unfortunately, there are many women that were not empowered early in their lives and careers. A wonderful friend of mine and fellow entrepreneur, Charli Matthews, saw the need to empower ALL  women and launched a fantastic organization, Empowering Women in Industry. The inaugural annual conference just occurred in Chicago and I was humbled to be part of the fantastic program.

The need to empower women is REAL. I heard story after story after story from very successful women about times that men had treated them unfairly. I believe every one of them because I have several stories of my own. The narratives all have similar themes and can be narrowed down to two categories. They either fit into gender discrimination or sexual harassment. Within each of the categories the stories can be grouped generally based upon the behaviors that occurred.

Gender discrimination stories:

  1. You don’t belong here because you’re a girl. This is not a woman’s job.
  2. SHE won’t be able to do ….
  3. You’re not paid as much as him because…
  4. Completely being ignored, no eye contact, or trivializing comments.
  5. Not being considered for jobs and/or being passed over for promotion.

The sexual harassment stories are disturbing because true and lasting harm has come to many women. I’m purposely excluding stories about sexual assault from this blog for many reasons and only including narratives of verbal sexual harassment.

Verbal sexual harassment stories:

  1. You’re too pretty to have a job like this.
  2. Back-handed comments (i.e. I thought you were just another pretty face but you know what you’re doing.)
  3. Blunt statements about our looks and/or clothing.
  4. Sexual innuendo.
  5. Assumptions that women were successful because of who they have or were going to have sex with.

As I said earlier, EVERY professional woman I have met has at least one story that fits into one of the above categories. This above list is not meant to be all inclusive but does represent the numerous stories I heard in a short 8-hour time period. It is time that women have a voice that is valued for its contribution. Until recently, there has been no safe place for women to congregate to talk about these issues, to support each other, and to develop tools and strategies to persevere. In the last several years we have seen the birth of fantastic organizations such as Lean In, Dress for Success, Girl Up, Pink Petro, and Empowering Women in Industry that are handling the issues women face in a productive and empowering manner. The increase in the number of supporting organizations and movements such as #metoo indicate that indeed women are feeling more empowered.

The energy I experienced this week at the Empowering Women in Industry conference and gala was electrifying! There was no whining or complaining. The conversation was pragmatic and matter of fact, acknowledging that woman had been treated unfairly. It was as if you could see the weight lift from the women’s shoulders as they were given a safe place to have a voice. But I didn’t hear #metoo. Rather I heard, “what can we do to help you?” It was so refreshing! This is the first time I’ve been in an environment surrounded by only professional women. Every attendee wanted to help and empower every person around them. We felt free to dress and feel beautiful because we knew there would be no repercussions. Charli was so smart to have hair and make-up artists there for free for any attendee wanting to indulge. We discussed how to develop our personal brands, overcome limiting beliefs, and learned to do the Rosie Shuffle! Ultimately, we made new, life-long, soul sister friendships! (Pics below to show you a few of my new, beautiful friends!)

It is time that all women find a group that helps to empower them in a productive manner that lends support, teaches effective tools, and provides encouragement so that everyone feels free to reach for their goals.

I am full of gratitude that I have found my tribe, but I am left with a haunting question. Who is helping to encourage and educate men to understand and accept the new role of women in the workplace? True woman empowerment won’t occur until that is addressed as well.

-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential and find SERENE SUCCESS, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com.


How Do I Keep It All Together?

After class this week, a student stayed behind to talk to me. He asked me a question that took me aback. “Mrs. Gina, how do you keep it all together?” I’m sure I gave him a surprised look because he kept talking. “I’ve had you for multiple classes now and known you for about 2 years. You are the smiliest person I know. No matter what is going on, you come into class and act as if everything is great.”

I am currently teaching face to face upper level entrepreneurship classes at a major university. Things are different in the age of COVID-19. Everyone is wearing a mask, all students are placed at least 6’ apart, all rows are separated with plexiglass and I have a 6×6’ red tape square surrounding the area I stand to teach that is the border for how close students can get to me. I feel 100% safe in the classroom, but it is different.

My heart broke a bit when the student asked me how I keep it together because I knew this meant he was having a hard time doing it. I could tell by the tone of his voice and his eyes (which is all I can see) that he was sad. The college experience that he and his classmates had expected has been indefinitely interrupted. Their ability to go to class, chat with their peers in the hall, and have coffee or lunch together is completely different now. For incoming freshman, it is the only true college experience they have so they don’t know anything different. But for the upperclassman that have had the true college experience, it makes sense that right now they are sad.

As a coach, parent, teacher, and friend I know the most important thing I can do for anyone I have a relationship with is to listen to them. Not just hear them, but really listen to them. I call it “listening between the lines”. Everyone wants and needs to be heard. We want to be heard so that we believe the person we are talking to understands how we feel. This means that to listen between the lines, I must also practice empathy. I must take the time to think and to put myself into the other person’s shoes so that I can try to understand what they are feeling. That is easier said than done. It means I must put my personal thoughts and feelings aside for a few minutes. If I project my thoughts and feelings onto the other person I have not truly listened to them.

How many times have you tuned a person out because you do not agree with what they are saying or feeling? How many times have you assumed another person is less intelligent than you, does not care as much as you, or worse is acting with malice because you don’t agree with their words or actions? I see this playing out all around me now more than ever. I see it in discussions concerning race, sexual orientation, immigration, and covid. It has led to more division in our country than I can remember seeing in my lifetime. Division that is leading to anger and to sadness and ultimately life or death circumstances.

The lack of true listening has a downward spiral effect. If a person is trying to express a thought or feeling, either good or bad, but does not feel heard or understood, the likelihood that this person will be willing to listen to anyone else is incredibly low. The result looks like a conversation between 2 people with an invisible wall between them. Everything each says hits the invisible wall and bounces to the ground without the other person hearing a word. Each person gets louder and starts to yell, but the words bounce off the invisible wall and hit the ground. Each person gets emotional and lashes out, but the words hit the invisible wall and bounce to the ground. Ultimately, the two people walk away from the conversation with no resolution and terrible feelings about the person that didn’t hear them without realizing the invisible wall existed. More division.

The good news is that listening between the lines and having empathy are learned skills. Anyone can do it, but it takes a willingness to want to bridge gaps, time, and practice to be good at it. I have outlined 7 easy steps to help you get started with listening between the lines.

1. Be present and listen to understand, not to respond. Give the person speaking your undivided attention. Put your phone away. Make eye contact. Listen to develop questions to learn more, not to respond or have the right answer.

2. Do not interrupt. For goodness sake, let the other person speak. It is very disrespectful to interrupt people. This signals that you are more interested in what you have to say than what they have to say. Remember, if you want someone to listen to you, you must be willing to listen too.

3. Do not respond with “I” or “me” statements. How annoying is it when you tell a person something, they do not acknowledge anything you said but instead, respond with a story about themselves? It is terrible! This is another huge signal that you do not care about what the other person had to say and that you are more interested in yourself. The best responses involve acknowledging that you heard what was said and can see why the person is experiencing their thoughts and feelings. Ask questions to get the person to tell you more.

 4. Remind yourself that you do not know everything, and you might not be right. We all can agree that no one knows everything. We all have a lot to learn in life regardless of our age. It starts with a desire to learn rather than a desire to be right. Put your ego aside. The most successful people respond with “tell me more” and truly listen to learn.

5. Realize that you do not have to agree with someone to listen to them and put yourself in their shoes to understand them. This is a big realization for most people. We can intellectually understand why a person feels a particular way without agreeing with the reasons that cause the feelings. Specifically, I do not agree with violent response to #blacklivesmatter but I do understand why some black people feel angry enough to behave that way. They have built up frustration and anger from years of not feeling heard. We do not have to condone it to understand it. Listening with a pragmatic ear takes practice. It takes self-control to put our values aside to try to understand the values of other people. This skill is a gamechanger. It is like a Jedi Mind Trick.

6. Never give unsolicited advice. Another hard one! For some reason, we feel as if we need to fix things when someone decides to talk to us or confide in us. That is rarely true. Most times, we just want someone to listen so that we can either vent or get our thoughts out into the open to sort them out. The next time someone vents to you, rather than trying to give unsolicited advice try asking something along the lines of “what steps have you taken?” This opens the door for the person to either tell you it is solved or to ask you for help.

7. DO NOT TELL PEOPLE TO TOUGH IT OUT, GET OVER IT, OR THINGS COULD BE WORSE! Yes, I yelled this at you. It is that important. We’ve all done it. We are trying to be helpful and shift the energy to something more positive. However, what we have done is to tell the person that their feelings do not matter. All feelings are ok and justified. We need to feel all of them to be better able to process them and move on. Pushing feelings aside or stifling them is never successful long term.

Listening between the lines is not impossible and is not always easy, but it is always helpful. We must facilitate conversations and listen to instigate the change we all want to see. Learning to truly listen with empathy is the first step to closing the divides we see in the world. It is also the first step for leaders needing to get followers to work towards a common goal. Listening is the key for developing relationships and getting desired results. Too many times individuals in leadership positions do not take the time to listen to followers while developing a plan, only to have the plan fail. Listening is my key to holding it all together.

After my student asked me how I held it all together, I took a deep breath to think and to process what I was hearing between the lines. He needed an answer that he could use, not an answer that worked for me. He needed to know someone cared about him and had his back. He needed to know that his feelings of sadness were ok and were normal. That is the type of answer I gave him. He was still sad when he left class, but now he knows someone heard him and cares.

I do not have it all together, not even close. I am not the smiliest person on the inside. I am sad, scared, and frustrated just like everyone else. However, I have taken the time to listen to my students and to hear what they need. I show up for them in the way they need me, not the way I want things to be. It gives them a sense of calm and normalcy and the results I get from my students are outstanding. I am proud of them and love my college kiddos a ton. We will get through all of this together.

If you want to learn more about listening between the lines, reach out to me at gina@solunastrategies.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

5 Steps for Identifying, Evaluating & Conquering the Fear Holding You Back

Tonight, I will prove that I looked fear in the face and conquered it. It tried to back me down, but I overcame it. I will be playing my first tennis league match. You might read that sentence and think it’s not a big deal, but let me assure you, it is to me. I’ve only been serious about playing tennis for a few months now. I’m not close to being ready to be truly competitive.  I have played one match in a tournament and while I am happy with my performance, I lost. The positive people in my life tell me to not worry about it because everyone had to start somewhere. As much as I know that is true, it doesn’t sit well with my ambitious persona. I am the type of person that avoids things if I feel like I am not good. I’m the type of person that would wait until I’d had many tennis lessons and I felt certain I could be more competitive before going “public”. So, why am I doing this? I am doing this because I vowed to take control of the bad habits in my life. Taking control in this scenario means facing and conquering fears.

Last fall, a good friend of mine, Amanda, asked me if I’d like to play on a tennis team. I had been asked this before several times in the past and had said no every time.  I enjoy being athletic, so I believe people assume I’d be a good team member to have. But I have zero tennis skills or knowledge. Zero! However, last year when my friend asked me to play, I decided to say yes. I said yes for many reasons but mostly I wanted to face my fears.

As a certified professional coach, I have been formally trained to help my clients overcome fear and obstacles that prevent them from reaching their full potential. I love every minute of being a coach and helping others to grow and blossom as they overcome their roadblocks to reach success. However, being the coach is a very safe place to sit. I do a lot of listening and ask a ton of questions, none of which pertain to me. It is easy to set my life and fears aside to constantly help others work on theirs. I decided to join the tennis team so I could remember how it feels to be 100% uncomfortable while traveling the path to success. I push my clients to do this and remind them of all the benefits associated with pushing outside of their comfort zone. I knew I would enjoy tennis, but I also knew I needed to practice what I preach: “Face your fears. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Tune out the noise associated with individuals that are judging you. Stop holding yourself back.” I know I will be a better coach if I continue to overcome my own fears. So here I am, excited and anxious to be attempting to play in my first tennis league match (in front of others, really keeping score, scores that are recorded, oh my word!!!!!!!!!! Did I mention I haven’t been playing very long?!?!?!).

When coaching my clients through fears and obstacles, I have a large toolbox to pull from to get them past what is holding them back. This time I have pulled tools to use to coach myself. It has been a very empowering experience that I want to share with you in hopes that you can use some of the tools in your own life when facing fear. If there are things in your life that you would like to attempt or accomplish but haven’t found the courage to go for it yet, it is time to find out why. I’ve found that most goals are attainable when we stop making excuses and face the fear holding us back.

Fear is a natural response to new and uncertain situations. Our body reacts with the fight or flight response and the level of stress we perceive is increased. Further, our fear and stress levels are heightened when we place a high value on the outcome. We decide to run or put up our fists. When we run, we are allowing fear to win. Obviously, there are some things we should run from, but for the most part we run when we shouldn’t. In deciding whether to run or fight we must first clearly articulate what it is we truly fear.

Facing fear becomes easier when we have a process in place for identifying and evaluating it. Below, I have outlined 5 steps that I have used successfully with clients and myself for identifying, evaluating, and ultimately conquering fear.

  1. List the excuses you have given for “running”. Can the excuse be overcome easily? If so, it’s not your real fear. Keep going.

As I tried to pinpoint why I ran from playing tennis for so long, I began to explore what I was afraid of by making a list of the excuses I had given for saying no. I had a long list of them, such as “I haven’t played before. I don’t know anything about tennis. I don’t have time. I don’t have a racket.” Then I took the time to evaluate each excuse to see if it could be overcome. In every instance, there was a simple solution. This told me that the excuses weren’t my real fears and I needed to dive a bit deeper to find out what I truly feared.

  1. Ask yourself, “If I went for it, what is the worst thing that could happen?” Evaluate the list and identify your true fear.

We can identify our true fears by asking the question, “If I go for it, what is the worst thing that could happen?” Make a list of the answers. In my case, the list was “I could get hurt. People will laugh at me. Others might find out that I am not a good athlete. People might see the real me. I want others to have a high opinion of me. If I show them my weakness, they might not respect me as much.” As I look back at my list, it is easy to see that my real fear revolves around other’s opinion of me, which I want to be very high. I am afraid that if others see me struggle on the tennis court, this will lessen their respect for me.

  1. After identifying your true fear(s), ask yourself, “How true is that?”

 How true is it that people I know will have a lesser opinion of me if they see I am a terrible tennis player? I took quite a bit of time to answer this question.

  • First, I know that the people who really love me are proud of me for starting a new sport at 46. They don’t care how I play. For them, it’s a resounding not true.
  • If I’m truly honest with myself, I know that most people will not think anything about the way I play tennis. In fact, they won’t think about it all! As important as it is to me to play well, it doesn’t even show up as a blip on most people’s radar. For them, the answer is another resounding not true.
  • However, there might be a group of people that do look down on me for not playing well. If they do, what does that mean? I can best answer this by thinking of something I try to teach my daughter – she should never try to feel better about herself by putting others down. This rang in my head as I thought about the people that might think less of me. Are they are seeking ways to feel better about themselves? If so, that’s about them and their insecurity, not about me. Wow. Or perhaps they are the type of people that look at outcomes without taking the process into consideration. While outcomes are important, they are far less valuable than the lessons learned, and the effort put into the process. If you don’t believe me, just ask Nick Saban. A person with an outcome only focus is missing so many great things in life. That makes me sad to think about.

What a revelation! Most won’t care how well I play tennis. But there might be a handful of people that think less of me. A funny thing happened as I thought about the type of people that would judge me if I’m not good at tennis. I put myself in their shoes and felt myself wanting to help them to overcome their insecurities and to enjoy the parts of life they are missing. Suddenly, I’m not afraid of what others think about my tennis game. Turns out my fear was self-imposed. I had been holding myself back for no reason. How often do you think this happens to you?

  1. Visualize what you’d like to accomplish, set goals, and make a plan.

Now that I realize I have nothing to truly fear, I am free to dream about how my success might look. I can visualize what I would like to accomplish. This allows me to set goals and make a plan. Set both long-term and short-term goals. Take the time to celebrate every win in your life. Don’t be afraid to adjust your plan as you proceed through the process. The best laid plans often go awry. Most importantly, never stop dreaming.

  1. Surround yourself with a stellar support system and GO FOR IT!

After you have set your goals and made a plan, it is imperative to surround yourself with a great support system. Someone once said, “If you look into your inner circle and it does not inspire you, you are in a cage not a circle.” We become the average of the people closest to us. If you surround yourself with people that are positive and uplifting, you will be lifted.

I have a fantastic tennis circle. My tennis coach, Angel Hernandez, lifts me to a higher level. He is a talented tennis player and he is also a great person. He is teaching me to play tennis but more importantly, he helps me to believe in my abilities and myself. If I get discouraged, he reminds me of how far I have come. He is an outstanding coach! True story – as I finalize this blog, Angel just sent me a text telling me, “YOU GOT THIS!” Be sure to have an Angel in your life!! My team, the Serve-Aces (say it quickly, tehehehe!) is stellar too. Most of us are true beginners and have vowed to build each other up. It makes no sense to do anything else. Also, we have tried to stop apologizing to each other for the tennis skills we have yet to master. Apologies imply we have done something wrong, but we haven’t. We are in the midst of our process and having a great time together.

I’m so excited for tonight, the first matches of the winter tennis league. I’m proud and happy that I practiced what I preach and finally faced my false fears and decided to begin playing. I’m still nervous and anxious, but now it is not because I’m afraid of what others will think. It is because I want to do well, for myself, my coach, and my team. I’m going to work for the best outcome while taking pride of where I am in the process!

-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your serene success!


The Positive Side of Loss

Losing loved ones is extremely difficult. After losing my father, a daughter, and several pregnancies I experienced bouts of deep depression and pure sadness. Other times I was angry at how unfair life can be. Grief can be consuming, and everyone deals with it in different ways. I found that I dealt with my grief in different ways as time passed. People told me that the pain would heal with time. Our daughter passed 8 years ago today. I can tell you that the pain has not healed. I honestly do not believe it will. The thing that has changed is my ability to deal with the pain. This morning as I reflect and honor Elise, I felt the strength of Purple Power and I was struck with several new thoughts about the positive side of loss.

  • I am still alive, so I must live!

The reason we feel loss is because someone is gone while we are still here. But wait! That means we are still here! If we are here we still have the ability to live and to live BIG. Loss is hard but not living is harder. Each of us has a finite amount of time on earth. I plan to honor the ones I lost by living. I know they wouldn’t want less for me.

  • I have known true love and I still have love to give!

We feel loss because someone we love is no longer with us on earth. The bigger our love, the bigger our loss. But wait! That means we were lucky enough to have someone in our life to love! I am so fortunate to know how to feel and show BIG love. Loss does not mean our ability to love and be loved is gone as well. We can grieve the loss but we should be proud of our capacity to love. There are so many people on earth that are worthy of our love and it feels really good to share it. Don’t feel guilty about sharing your love with new people. Tapping back into our loving hearts helps us to cope with the pain of loss. I know the loved ones we’ve lost wouldn’t want us to live without love.

  • I am a survivor and I have more to do!

Losing a loved one is very hard. It seems harder when the person we lost was young. This feels very unfair and it can lead to questions such as Why? Truth is, we will never truly know why, so I stopped asking the why question a long time ago. I finally realized that there are some things in life that I will never understand. I made the decision to accept the things I cannot control and to kick butt at the things I can. I am a survivor! I have more to do while I am fortunate enough to still be here. I want to make my lost loved ones and the loved ones still with me proud. I plan to make the most out of the life I have left!

This morning as I honor our sweet girl, Elise, I am both smiling and crying. She changed me forever and I thank her for the wonderful impact she had on our lives. I miss her and I grieve her loss. Of course, I wish she were still here, but she’s not. I can choose to focus on the negative or I can choose to focus on the positive. I choose the positive. PURPLE POWER!

Happy 46th to me! It’s time for my 2nd half!

It’s time to give myself another birthday gift!

If you follow my blog you know that two years ago I gave myself the gift of happiness for my 44th birthday. I had found myself in an ironic state. Materially my life was wonderful but internally I was miserable. I had hit emotional rock bottom and was determined to claw my way out. At that time, I had no idea how I would do it or what my journey would be, but I was ready to get moving. I won’t rehash the details as you can see those in my previous posts but to sum things up, in less than 12 months I left my job as a CEO, sold our home and downsized, became a certified professional coach and launched a new business, Soluna Strategies. It was CRAZY but the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. The path I took involved a deep dive personally to identify my core values and determine why I was or was not honoring them. Now I live each day focused on making decisions that honor the things I find truly valuable. I feel as though I have been rewarded for those efforts. Not only have I found personal peace and happiness, but the universe has rewarded me with a new daughter and the ability to live my dream of coaching and teaching entrepreneurship on a college level. I now have a very clear vision of how I will live the rest of my life and know everything I want is possible.

The gift of happiness I gave myself on my 44th birthday was so transformative that I decided I to give myself a gift every year. It couldn’t be any gift. It had to be a gift that would change my life, a gift that would keep on giving. Last year for my 45th birthday, I gave myself the gift of health. I want to live a long life and I want to live it in a body that is still capable of being active and enjoying all the things I like to do. I want to be able to run and play with my children and eventually my grandchildren. I want to travel, sail, swim, and snorkel up to the day I die. I knew that if I was going to make that happen I needed to start taking better care of my health. Since my 45th birthday I have begun to eat healthy 95% of the time (everything is good in moderation! I enjoy the 5% with no guilt!) and I exercise regularly. I feel better than I have felt in years. I’ve lost almost 15 pounds and I have abs again! Let me be clear, I did not give myself the gift of health because I was focused on how I look. I do feel better when I am happy with the way I look, but this was bigger than that. I want to live a long time and I want to be active my whole life. When I focus on that goal rather than how I look, it makes sticking with a healthy meal and exercise plan so much easier.  It was a great gift and it keeps on giving!

It’s time to give myself another gift! I just celebrated my 46th birthday! I’m happy (44th) and I’m fit (45th) so for the big four six, I am giving myself the gift of control. I giggled when I typed that because my friends and family know I am a control freak so why in the world would I need to give myself more control??!!! I am giving myself the gift of control because I want to take charge of my habits and how I spend my time. I do some things that I consider bad habits. I want to stop the circle of bad habits and create new circles of good habits. For example, I spend too much time on social media. I don’t want to quit social media because I love it but I need to control the amount of time I dedicate to it. Another example is that I drink too much wine. I love a good, deep bodied Malbec. In keeping with the gift of health I need to drink less so I am giving myself control over that bad habit. I have plenty of other bad habits that if I take control over will result in the type of long-lasting transformation that I want in my life. I plan to live to at least 90 which means I have started the second half of my life. I am going to play the second half as strong as the first. I have no intention of slowing down or maintaining. I am winning and I plan to run up the score! So stay tuned! I will share my journey’s ups and downs! Hopefully I can provide some hope and motivation to those of you wanting to make changes but if not, I certainly hope I can provide you a few laughs!

Happy Birthday to me!


-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your success!


When is the last time you had REAL fun?

At what point do we decide that we should stop experiencing life and fun the way we did as a child? When do we decide it is juvenile to be silly and play unless it includes a child? More importantly than when, is WHY? I’ve half-heartedly asked myself these questions in the past, but this has been brought top of mind again. The past couple of weeks my oldest child has been away at camp. I receive infrequent letters from her because she is having too much fun to take time to write home. My only indication of how things are going for her comes from pictures posted on the camp website. I scour them daily hoping for a slight glimpse of her. My fear that she is homesick is put to rest when I see her face full of laughter and joy. She is clearly having fun! As I look at the faces of all the girls in the pictures, their energy jumps off the screen. They are loving life and it shows!

Simultaneously, I have been working with a professional on my company and personal branding. One of the many activities she asked me to do was to develop a mood board on Pinterest. I wanted to post pictures of adults with the same joy, fun, and laughter that I saw in the girls’ faces in those camp pictures. I could barely find any!!! I was surprised and saddened. What does this mean?

As I roll this over in my mind, I remember things my 9-year-old daughter has said to me in the past. Once after getting a French manicure, she asked why I didn’t chose a pretty color polish. When I told her this looked more professional, she responded, “Why does professional have to be boring?” Wow. Good question. One other time I mentioned having to attend a Board meeting. She asked, “Mommy, why do have to go to another one of those bording meetings?” In her mind, she thought I was saying boring. She was doing a great job of reading between the lines because usually they are boring, oops, I mean professional.

I have had other confirmations in the past couple of weeks that we adults lose our fun factor. Over the weekend, we had some friends over for dinner. We were discussing our daughters attending camp. One of our guests said, “I want to go to camp! Why don’t we have camps for adults?” I’m sure a few exist but it is not as prevalent as for kids. Why?! I would go! I would love to hang out with new friends by the camp fire laughing about our day while making smores. We now have the ability to pair that with a great wine and we aren’t doing it!

Even worse than losing our ability to tap into our inner child is that we look at those that are lucky enough to do it as if they are doing something wrong. If you saw a female enter a “bording meeting” with bright yellow fingernails, a fun pony tail, and beach t-shirt how would you respond? If you saw a group of men playing a game of freeze-tag in your neighborhood, what would you think? What if they asked you to join them? Social standards might cause us to categorize this type of behavior as immature, unrefined, or unpolished. But why?

That’s another thing! When do we stop asking, “Why?” Is it because we finally drove our parents so crazy asking why over and over again that they warned us to never say it again?! Did we really never ask it again? Did we begin to accept social norms, become boring, lose our curiosity, and stop playing without asking why? Why?

Life as an adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We have more freedom than we did as a child, but we lose sight of it under the weight of our responsibilities. We must build a career, a family, a home, college funds, the list goes on and on. Is it this weight combined with social norms and our failure to ask why that is stealing our inner child joy?

Opioid addiction, anxiety, depression rates, and suicides are rising exponentially. We must begin to ask great questions to find out how to solve this. My questions are, “How would we feel if we decide to begin letting our inner child have fun again?”, “What would we learn and possibly change if we started asking why again?”, “What if we continue to follow the trend of losing the suit/tie and redefine professional?” and “If we could tap into our inner child at least once per week, what could that do for our psyche?”

Truthfully, I have no proof that tapping back into our inner child would help with the problems mentioned above. I know they are very complex issues. This blog has been a complete brain storm rather than following my normal pattern of tell a story, present questions, and offer researched solutions. What I do know is that I am tired of missing out on the fun I see in my daughter’s face. I want to have fun like that again! Also, I am going to begin to ask why much more often. And I am going to redefine professional to reflect who I am and what my inner child loves. I invite you all to come with me! Anyone up for a game of freeze-tag?? Let me know your thoughts!

-Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@solunastrategies.com. Her passion is your success!

My Dad was J-Bird (and he was awesome!)

My Dad was J-Bird. He was quite a large personality in the small town in which we lived. J-Bird was the fire chief, an ambulance driver, a county commissioner, and unwavering public servant. As one of 17 children, he learned from necessity how to provide for himself and others. (Yes, 17 children from one mom and dad!) I love my father very much and miss him daily. He lost his battle with diabetes twelve years ago today.

I credit my Dad with helping me to become the woman I am today. As we head into Father’s Day and I honor the anniversary of his passing, I would like to spend some time sharing with you the example he set for me and some of the best advice he gave to me over the years. A lot of you knew him, but for those that did not have the pleasure of meeting him please allow me to tell you about him.

Ray “J-Bird” Westbrooks grew up in a small town in a poor, very large family and as such, never had the opportunity to go to school. His time was spent working to provide for himself and family. He never told me anything first-hand about the difficulties he faced growing up. Complaining about it wasn’t his style. I saw the person he became though. He was a man with ambition and strong work ethic. He seemed to have unlimited energy and a great passion for serving others. Over the years, I have been amazed at the number of stories I’ve heard about ways that my dad helped others. Somehow, he had time for almost everyone and the willingness to help. He loved to have fun too. I have fond memories from my childhood of time spent at the softball park as he played, Sunday afternoons at the lake water skiing, and the numerous fish fries he loved to have for our large extended family or for the city employees and their families. He enjoyed fishing and sharing his catch with pretty much anyone that would eat what he cooked. His food was good, but his company was better. He was a fantastic story teller, funny, and quick-witted.

As my Dad, he was strict and ruled with an iron fist. I tested his patience many times with the strong-willed personality I inherited from him. But, he was also my safe place and my supporter. I always knew I could count on him. If work allowed, he was always there while I cheered or played softball. He would drive us to cheer camp and happily load and offload all our stuff. He had nicknames for all my friends and I think he got a kick out of our antics. My dad was always there when I needed to talk. I valued his advice and level-headed thinking more than he knew. He always shot me straight and helped me to face the world with a pragmatic view. Dad was not an educated person but was one the smartest men I’ve ever known.

J-Bird was infamous for his quotes. Truth be told, he had quite a potty mouth and I won’t share most of his sayings with you as good as they are! There are a few though that are my favorites and I reflect back to on a regular basis. These nuggets of advice have helped me more than I can articulate and continue to help me as I face struggles or obstacles in life. I can’t call my Dad anymore but I can still hear him clearly telling me the following:

“You didn’t think they’d just give it to you, did you?”  My Dad asked me this so many times over the years. It was usually his way of bringing me out of a pity party because things were difficult or weren’t going my way. It was his way of reminding me that I needed to get over myself and get back to work at achieving my goals.

“Time is all you have.”  This was so simple, but so profound. I tend to over commit myself and then get frazzled at what I perceive as my lack of time management skills. I’d call my Dad to give some excuse for missing a family event, not performing to my expectations, etc… and talk about how busy I was. He’d shoot back to me that time is all I have. This would trigger me to stop complaining about my busyness because I chose it. It would also help me to prioritize my commitments. At the heart of this is that we have a limited amount of time each day, each year, and in our lives. We must choose wisely how we use it. We all have time, it is the one thing we all have. What we do with it is up to us.

“It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” This is seriously my favorite piece of advice from my Dad! The world is full of drama, insecurities, and competitive situations. I’ve had my share of being the target of the mean girls, the mean moms, the work cliques, and politics. I’ve also been on the other side when I’ve been urged to take sides, gossip, leave others out, or tempted to stir the proverbial pot. As I talked to my Dad about whatever was happening at the time, he’d tell me, “It’s like a fart. The more you fan it the worse it smells.” Bahahaha! Instinctively I laughed but it is so true. There are so many situations that we should just walk away from and not engage. If we do, we make the situation worse. The older I get, it is easier to take this advice.

Twelve years ago today, the last thing my Dad communicated with me was a thumbs-up. He wasn’t perfect, but he was extraordinary. He had lived a thumbs-up life. He still inspires me and motivates me. I am grateful for the example he set in persistence, how to overcome, and the importance of serving others while never losing his ability to have fun. He made me the woman I am proud to be. I still hear his voice and feel his strength. Thank you, J-Bird. Love and miss you!



Be a Rock Star!

My life has been super busy and crazy lately. I found myself completely overwhelmed and needed to press a reset button. Last week I shared my thoughts with you on how I get my mojo back. Thank you all for reading and sharing my blog! Most of all thank you for your kind comments. You all know how to make a girl feel great. You also made me think – A LOT. You told me that I am a rock star! I was so taken aback. I don’t feel like a rock star. I’m not even sure I know what it means. The only thing I do know is that I have a vision for how I want my life to be and I realize that if I want that life, I must make it happen. I’m not a wisher, I’m a doer.

Everyone has visions of the type of life you’d like to lead. Unfortunately, we get caught in the trap of uncertainty and fear. We hear our inner voice tell us things like, “You can’t do that” and “Everyone will make fun of you if you share that dream.” We let our inner voice talk us out of lots of great things and kill our confidence. I call this inner voice a Glitch because it is something that should not be there and because the word rhymes with what I’d really like to call it! I think of the Glitch as the devil sitting on my shoulder whispering bad things into my ear. Sometimes I believe it and let it hold me back. Other times I call my Glitch out for being a liar and trying to bring me down. The more I can call out my Glitch, the more confident I am and can keep working towards the life I want.

Everyone has a Glitch, even rock stars! The people that we see going for their dreams and living confident lives have learned to recognize and control their inner voice. This takes a lot of practice but here are a few steps for getting started:

  1. Articulate your dream. What life do you want to live? What do you want to achieve? Do not be afraid to write it down or talk about it to someone. To move forward and be successful you must know where it is you want to go.
  2. Put the right picture in your head! Create a picture in your head of what your perfect life will look like. Better yet, create a vision board that you can look at any time you want. After you have created this beautiful picture, keep it there! Do not let the pictures of the things you think are holding you back creep in. This will slow you down.
  3. Recognize your Glitch is your bad imaginary friend. As you articulate your dream and create the picture of what it will look like, your Glitch is going to lose its mind!! It will be talking so fast to you, you won’t be able to keep up. It helps if you picture your Glitch as a separate little being that lives outside of you. Your glitch can look any way you want. You can give it a name! It is easier to control your Glitch when you picture it as something outside of you. It might feel hokey at first but trust me. I have two Glitches – one male and one female – that I have named Fred and Doris. I hate Fred and Doris. They are complete liars and try to bring me down constantly! I give them the evil eye now when I hear them speak. I imagine turning my back on them, stepping on them, and laughing at them when I succeed at something they said I couldn’t do. It is very empowering and helps my confidence grow a great deal!
  4. Put your Glitch on mute. When you start to feel scared or doubt yourself, it is important to recognize this is your Glitch talking to you. Become very good at noticing when the Glitch speaks. Your Glitch is all your fear and uncertainty wrapped up in a tiny, but powerful voice. Your Glitch is a liar. Your Glitch survives on your fear. Tell your Glitch to shut up! Put it on mute! You are not all the things it tells you. You are more capable than your Glitch wants you to believe.

As you let yourself dream and create a picture of what you’d love your life to be like, your Glitch is going to come at you full steam ahead. This usually results in feelings of being inadequate and helpless. We find it very hard to reach for our dreams because we think we can’t achieve them. It is very normal to be afraid of failure but the only true failure in life is not trying. Successful people don’t always do the right things, but they don’t let setbacks stop them. I have messed up a lot of things over my life and made tons of mistakes. If I let Fred and Doris have their way, they’d convince me that those mistakes will hold me back from ever having success. Instead, I put them on mute. This helps me to be a doer and not just a wisher. If that makes me a rock star, then I’ll take it.

Have a great Monday, week, and LIFE!!!!

Gina Simpson is a certified professional coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!

Find Your Mojo!

What a year! The last 12 months have been CRAZY! Let’s recap – I left a secure career as a CEO, launched a new coaching business, sold our home, bought a home (downsized over 1300 sq ft!), received my professional coaching certification, bought our daughter a new puppy, started teaching part time at the University of Alabama again, accepted a full time position to teach at UA, and wait for it – adopted a new born daughter!!! When I put it all down in writing and reflect on all the changes that have occurred for me and our family, it makes perfect sense that I have been feeling completely overwhelmed. I haven’t known for a while if my world is moving forward, backward, or in a circle. I have been beating myself up for not blogging enough, not socializing enough, not answering emails in a timely fashion, not getting papers graded quickly enough, not having our new home perfectly put together yet, sucking in relationships, and on and on. I am a perfectionist in a lot of areas of my life and when I feel as though things aren’t perfect, I get depressed. When I get depressed I tend to become paralyzed and do nothing. This can have a terrible snowball effect because I’m depressed for not getting things done and now I’m doing less! I’m not sure if you can relate to this or not. This morning I decided it was time to press a reset button. I needed to cleanse myself of stress and the burden of feeling inadequate. I want my mojo back!


It is very normal in life to experience times when we feel as though all our motivation has taken a vacation without us. We live busy lives and it is hard to maintain high positive energy levels all the time. When I need to shake off the pressure I put on myself and get reenergized, I do a couple of things. I’ve decided to share those with you today in hopes that they can work for you when you find yourself needing to hit a reset button.


  1. Focus on being grateful. Stop focusing on what you don’t have or what you have not accomplished. Instead reframe every situation to find the aspects of it for which you are thankful. I tell my coaching clients that when frustrations begin to arise, stop, take a breath, and name 3 things about this situation for which you are thankful. There is always something! Right now, I am frustrated that I am behind on my work for school and some volunteering duties. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to teach, that I am involved in my community, and that my life is so busy with family duties that I am behind! With each gratitude that you voice you feel yourself relax. By the time you get to the third one you will notice your shoulders have relaxed and you are feeling a bit more at peace. Try it! I’d love to hear your stories about how this worked for you.


  1. Find the thing(s) that give you energy and DO IT! Everything in life either creates energy or consumes energy. When we spend the majority of our time doing things that consume energy we become tired and eventually burned out. As a working mom and wife, I spend quite a bit of time in activities that consume ALL of my energy. I never seem to have enough time to do everything. I then feel guilty using any time to do something for myself. I now know that taking that time is the best thing I can do for me and everyone around me! I plan what I do during my “Me Time” to be sure that it is something that will create internal energy and not consume it. I love motivational books. I also love to exercise. I combine the two and now try to exercise at least 3 times per week while listening to an audio book or podcast. It gets me going! What is it for you? Make a list of the things that make you feel very energized. Then more importantly, make time and DO THEM!


This morning I listened to some great podcasts while running. Ok, maybe it was a walk/run! I am a bit out of running shape. After I finished, rather than focus on how out of shape I feel, I voiced 3 gratitudes. I am grateful for the ability to get outside and walk/run. I am grateful for the busy, crazy wonderful life I have that takes a lot of energy! I am grateful to have the ability to share this information with you and my clients! I have a pep in my step today and I am smiling as a I write this!

Have a great Monday, week, and life!


-Gina Simpson is a professional business and entrepreneurship coach and founder of Soluna Strategies. If you are interested in working with Gina to reach your full potential, email her at gina@freelunchkid.com. Her passion is your success!